It was a long shot, state Senate advocates warned as they introduced their plans to try to fix what has been dubbed the “candidate crisis” involving confused first-time candidates being kicked off of primary ballots.
“This will be a daunting task,” said Senate Judiciary Chair Larry Martin when he opened an emergency session of his committee.
Senate Republicans tried to push through a bill to give all candidates another shot at correctly filing the required economic forms, whether or not they filed them properly — or filed them at all.
And that became the sticking point that resulted in Democrats and some Republicans blocking a rules change to fast-track debate, which then killed the bill’s chances. Democrats and an outspoken Republican Senator Jake Knotts balked at extending the list of eligible candidates beyond the statutory deadline: March 30. Bill sponsors wanted to make it April 15, which was the filing date for incumbents.
This all started with a state Supreme Court ruling last week that revealed that candidates and local parties were confused about changes to filing laws. The court disqualified 183 candidates from the upcoming June 12 primary. That decision has resulted in two lawsuits, delayed absentee ballots and a day of political bickering in the Senate.
Aiken Republican Greg Ryberg was furious and said some senators against the bill are only watching out for their own campaigns. AUDIO
Sen. Knotts was determined to block a bill that let everyone on the ballot and did not try to fix the law in the future. He filed a stack of amendments to bog down debate. “I’m in the catbird seat,” he chided. Knotts’s opponent was one of those removed from the ballot last week.
Knotts found allies in conflicted Democrats like Orangeburg’s Brad Hutto AUDIO
However, Pickens Republican Larry Martin said some candidates only did what they were told by party officials who ended up being wrong. AUDIO
Columbia Democrat Joel Lourie said he could sympathize with Martin. AUDIO
Democrats accused Republicans on grandstanding on the issue, when they were well aware the high court’s decision could not simply be overturned. That upset Anderson Republican Kevin Bryant. AUDIO
After the Senate adjourned empty-handed, both parties blamed each other. The next chance at a remedy is today’s federal court hearing of a candidate complaint.
Compiled by Ashley Byrd and Matt Long